The NHL is currently holding the expansion draft in conjunction with their annual awards show at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The Vegas Golden Knights are to choose one player from each of the established NHL franchises.
It did not take long for the team to make their selection from the New Jersey Devils. Defenseman Jon Merrill was chosen in the first wave of selections by Vegas and will be taking his talents to Sin City next fall.
The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-born player who grew up in Michigan was chosen by the Devils 38th overall in the 2nd round ofthe 2010 NHL Entry Draft from the University of Michigan.
In parts of four seasons with the Devils, totalling 216 games, Merrill has six goals and 20 assists for 36 points. He is a career minus-41 plus/minus and averages about 18:58 of ice time (all stats from Hockey-Reference.com).
The 25-year-old, 6-foot, 3-inch, 205-pound blueliner is the third d-man taken in the first wave by the Golden Knights, along with Luca Sbisa of Vancouver and Brayden McNabb of Los Angeles.
Dan Rosen of NHL.com offered his analysis of Merrill on the NHL’s official website, saying that while he and Sbisa are big and can “block shots and play sound defensively,” both are “inconsistent.” He does not see Merrill “as a top-pair or even middle-pair” defenseman. He does concede that Vegas might have to use him as such, however.
He also proposes that Sbisa and Merrill, who he clearly feels are the weakest players taken by the Golden Knights so far, “are both signed for one more season, so they could be trade bait for Vegas around the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline.” Rosen goes on to say that “that might be their best value, in fact.” Ouch.
For the Devils, Merrill was probably one of the better players avaiable so it is pretty obvious why Vegas would take him. Losing someone like Beau Bennett would have been a little bit more of a hit, so the Devils will recover.
In other Devils news, the team announced their 2017-18 home opener will occur on Saturday, October 7, 2017 against the Colorado Avalanche at 7 PM. The rest of their schedule will be unveiled along with the other 30 team schedules on Thursday at 3 PM on the NHL Network.